Hope for potato farmers as new governor promises better storage services

Farmers packaging their potato produce reday for market in Sirikwa village, Kuresoi North Sub County on October 19,2016. [PHOTO:KIPSANG JPSEPH]

Governor Lee Kinyanjui has assured farmers that his government will work with industry stakeholders to create storage services and help to improve their profitability and livelihoods across the region.

"Storage has been an issue for many years and has caused losses among our potato farmers. We will ensure that we get proper storage for their produce and cushion them from erratic price fluctuations," said Mr Kinyanjui.

The governor added that advisory services would be offered to farmers with an aim to improve agriculture.

Kinyanjui said agricultural officers would conduct research on best practices to boost potato farming in the region.

"We shall engage the national government to restore and empower farmer support institutions. We want to create a one-stop solution for farmers' needs – from seeds and agricultural implements to the market," he added.

Major challenge

With lack of proper storage and markets for their potatoes becoming a major challenge over the years, farmers have been making losses.

They say most of their harvest has been rotting due to lack of storage space.

David Juma, a farmer in Kuresoi who owns a 25-acre farm, told The Standard that in the last harvest, he lost more than 200 bags due to lack of proper storage.

The farmer, who harvest more than 2,000 bags per season, also said he had no ready market for his produce.

"We used to store our produce in stores belonging to the Agricultural Development Corporation potato project in Molo but for more than three years now, we have had nowhere to store the potatoes," said Mr Juma.

Most of the farmers have since resorted to storing their produce in wooden granaries that only accommodate a limited number of bags.

Tanzania markets

Benard Rono, who owns more than 55 acres in Molo and Narok, said he transports his harvest to markets in Tanzania.

"In order to profit and cater for the cost of production, I take my potatoes to Tanzania. There is a ready market and no competition compared to the market in Kenya. That is where I sell my potatoes instead of having to watch them rot," he said.

A 50kg bag of potatoes sells at Sh1,500 locally compared to Sh2,800 in Tanzania.

In 2012, the national government set aside Sh4 billion for the construction of processing factories in Nyandarua and Nyeri counties to benefit potato farmers.

The plants, which were expected to be completed by 2014, were meant to add value before the potatoes were sold in both local and international markets. The projects are yet to be actualised.